By Rob Furlong
With the amazing increase in technological devices over the past 15 years our ability to stay in touch with each other, even in some of the remotest parts of the world, has increased exponentially. I would like to suggest however that our ability to communicate meaningfully with each other has not progressed at the same rate. If anything, it has gone backwards.
On a holiday a few years back (which included a buffet breakfast in beautiful tropical surrounds each morning) Karen and I were amazed at the number of couples sitting across from each other at the breakfast table gazing into their … iPads! In such a beautiful setting how sad it was to see people desperately checking their Facebook status rather than connecting with the one they claimed to love forever.
How is it possible that we can live in an era that possesses unprecedented opportunities for communication and yet be so relationally disconnected from each other? Could it be that we have lost the simple art of being able to talk to each other face-to-face?
Communication experts have described the highest form of communication as Peak Communication – the level at which communication between a couple is natural, easy and free; there is even a sense of knowing what the other person is going to say before they say it – this is peak communication!
One author has described it in this way:
Communication is the meeting of meaning.
When your meaning meets my meaning across the bridge of words, tones, acts, and deeds, when understanding occurs, then we know we have communicated …
When two persons can share from the very centre of their existence, they experience love in its truest quality.
Open and honest communication is all about sharing yourself, your feelings, and your thoughts with the other person.
It also means that you are prepared to share the negatives with each other. Some people live under the delusion that being open in communication with each other means that you will only ever speak about positive things. But I have benefited enormously from the courage my wife has shown when she has confronted me about attitudes and behaviours that needed attention in my life.
For example, the time Karen made it clear to me that the way I expressed my anger at times was unacceptable was a watershed moment for me.
I am not proud to admit there were times I would raise my voice, shout and say unkind things when angry. Karen was not rude or nasty in how she approached this, but she made her position clear that I needed to address this area of my life. This was peak communication at its most intense!
Peak communication does not mean sharing every thought that comes into your head either.
There are some thoughts that are best expressed to God alone and, if need be, an objective person outside the situation. It is an unkind person indeed who “always speaks my mind” and leaves the recipient to deal with the hurtful consequences of their verbal tirade. We are called to speak the truth to each other, but we are told to speak it “in love”. Sometimes the most loving thing a person can do is to hold their tongue!
Open and free communication between two people is an enriching experience but the pathway there must be walked with care and the following statement sums this journey up superbly:
If you knew me yesterday, please do not think that it is the same person that you are meeting today. I have experienced more of life. I have encountered new depths in those I love, I have suffered and prayed, and I am different … Approach me, then, with a sense of wonder, study my face and hands and voice for signs of change; for it is certain that I have changed.
By Rob Furlong